in which IT improves safety overall, and the new problems created by health IT are minimized.

THE ROLE OF THE PRIVATE SECTOR: PROMOTING SHARED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

This chapter broadly defines the private sector to include health IT vendors, insurers, and the organizations that support each of these groups (e.g., professional societies). Health care organizations, health professionals, and patients and their families are also considered part of the private sector. The public sector generally refers to the government. Operationally, the line between the private and public sectors is not completely clear, because some organizations operate in both sectors.

The current environment in which health IT is designed and used does not adequately protect patient safety. However, the private sector has the ability to drive innovation and creativity, generating the tools to deliver the best possible health care and directly improve safety. In this regard, the private sector has the most direct responsibility to realign the market, but it will need support from the public sector.

The complexity and dynamism of health IT requires that private-sector entities work together through shared learning to improve patient safety. Manufacturers and health professionals have to communicate their capabilities and needs to each other to facilitate the design of health IT in ways that achieve maximum usability and safety. Patients and their families need to be able to interact seamlessly with health professionals through patient engagement tools. Health care organizations ought to share lessons learned with each other to avoid common patient safety risks as they adopt highly complex health IT products.

However, today’s reality is that the private sector currently consists of a broad variety of stakeholders lacking a uniform approach, and potentially misaligned goals. The track record of the private sector in responding to new safety issues created by IT is mixed. Although nearly all stakeholders would endorse the broad goals of improving the quality and safety of patient care, many stakeholders (particularly vendors) are faced with competing priorities, including maximizing profits and maintaining a competitive edge, which can limit shared learning, and have adverse consequences for patient safety. Shared learning about safety risks and mitigation strategies for safer health IT among users, vendors, researchers, and other stakeholders, can optimize patient safety and minimize harm.

As discussed in Chapters 4 and 5, there are many opportunities for the private sector to improve safety as it relates to health IT, but to date, little action has been taken. Insufficient action by the private sector to improve patient safety can endanger lives. The private sector must play a major role



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